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Cody Bellinger is back: Chicago Cubs re-sign left-handed outfielder to give lineup a big boost

A reunion between the Chicago Cubs and outfielder Cody Bellinger felt inevitable all offseason.

Even as the free-agent market moved at a glacial pace the last 3 1/2 months, the Cubs seemed like an ideal fit for Bellinger, coming off a stellar bounce-back season.

The Cubs have reached an agreement with Bellinger on a three-year, $80 million deal, a source confirmed, which will pay him $30 million each of the first two years and $20 million in the third year. Bellinger has opt-outs available after the first and second years.

Bellinger, 28, gives the Cubs a lefty slugger they can count on in the middle of their order. They first addressed their left-handed power deficiency last month when they acquired infielder Michael Busch, the reigning Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP, from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs are trying to build upon last year under new manager Craig Counsell, this time looking to avoid a late September collapse that kept them out of the postseason by one game. Bellinger’s deal of potentially up to three years aligns with the current Cubs’ core. Jed Hoyer’s patience paid off as the president of baseball operations did not let the Cubs be used as leverage or to negotiate against themselves. In the end, the acquisition provides not only a huge boost in the lineup but is a big win within the Cubs’ clubhouse where players had been vocal in wanting Bellinger to return.

Bringing back Bellinger is a good step to get the Cubs in the postseason after signing Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga and veteran reliever Héctor Neris. With an improved pitching staff and a Cubs offensive core largely intact from a lineup that helped produce one of baseball’s best records from late June into early September, there shouldn’t be any excuses if they fail to lock down a playoff spot in 2024.